Permanent Pages

Sunday 22 May 2011

Art Not Bullshit

Charlie Chaplin was so good it was impossible he wouldn't make it. He'd seen people on stage practically from birth, and he was on stage himself from the age of five.

Tupac was such a powerhouse of ideas and anger and poetry that he was never going to be anything apart from the greatest rapper of all time.

Steve Martin was funny but he couldn't make the whole room laugh. He did comedy gigs in empty clubs for eight years before he broke. It took him that long, night after night, to figure out what he was doing. Woody Allen has the same story, his manager's sent him out to clubs every night in New York and he'd bomb. The audience didn't get the jokes and Woody thought he was a failure.

Steve Martin became the biggest stand up comedian ever and Woody Allen changed cinema.

We can be bystanders and critics, but we won't be artists. If you want to be one of them you have to be sweating it on stage every night. You've got to be drawing storyboards when you're in bed with flu.

I interviewed Scott Rosenberg on here a few years back and he said it takes fifteen scripts to get good. How many have you written? Maybe you've written thirty-four and they all suck. But you're still writing, good.

Needless sequels, glorified violence, pop stars with their breasts hanging out-- these things bring people and projects attention immediately. But it disintegrates. They might get noticed and make heaps of money for a brief time, but nothing else lasts. You won't be showing these films to your soulmate or playing their songs at your funeral.

So I'm going to assume if you're a creative person reading this here, you're interested in the art, not the bullshit.

Art takes time. Talent takes time. You just have to keep working. The films you acted in five years ago showed some promise but were mostly awful. The screenplay's you wrote were all over the place.

Even bloggers will feel this. The more we write, the better we get. My first ever article was some generic bullshit about how music is important in movies. It meant nothing, no-one was reading. But I'm getting better at figuring out who I am and what I love about movies. Sure, some posts suck, but that's creativity. We take the risk. The point is, post-for-post, I nail it more often than I did two years ago. Why? Because rather than sleep, I stay up writing blog posts. It's 2am and I have to be up in five hours.

I'm fine with that.

It takes time and discipline. I like how Will Smith put it. He says he'll die on the treadmill, no way is he getting off. He works at it. No wonder he's a millionaire movie star and producer with a beautiful wife and talented kids.. he shows up for work. He could have been remembered as that kid on that Bel Air show, but he's so much more, because he's dedicated to learning and practicing and hustling and trying.

There are no shortcuts. The myths make it sound like Spielberg woke up one day and directed 'Jaws', but the truth is he dedicated all his time, from childhood onwards, to believing in his mad visions, and demanding his Dad get his friends to let him film scenes in the cockpits of their planes.

Don't wait around to be discovered by an agent or producer or magazine, just keep doing the work. You're not powerless. Even if they're not hiring you, not financing you, not liking your sound.

It means you keep working at it. Because Spielberg was just too determined, and Tupac was just too revolutionary, and Chaplin was just too funny. I'm not saying we can be as successful as them-- because they are once in a lifetime geniuses, but we can learn a lot from their work ethic, from their perserverance. They had rejection and self-doubt just like me and you. But the work always came first. No time for excuses.

Nothing can replace experience. We get better.


  1. Yep, I agree, 100%. The only reason Kerouac and Bukowski got anywhere, and they've said it themselves many times, is they kept doing the work. That's the hard part. ESPECIALLY when no one gives a fuck. You have to keep doing the work.

  2. This one really stopped me when I was looking through blogs today. This is something I wish more people would be willing to read and accept. It's not that easy. It's never easy.

  3. It's so true. Once you've got over your own fears and doubts about your work and decided to go for it you then need to be prepared for all the rejection that's going to be coming your way and keep going. It's great to be reminded though, thanks.

  4. Yeah, woot! Love all the pushing and sentiment, and agree 100%. Do it for the love of the art and don't worry about the rejection. During the rejection phase, if you haven't lost hope, you've improved.